HR still hasn’t woken up to its pioneering role

HR still hasn’t woken up to its pioneering role

We are all aware of the pace of change. But business leaders struggling to compete and survive in today’s global market are at the forefront. They face the challenges every working hour; perhaps every waking hour and possibly even in their sleep. And, while they thrive on challenge there must be times when they feel like an early explorer and question why they ever embarked on the journey.

Those intrepid sailors must have had doubts in the face of severe storms miles away from anything familiar. A manager’s situation is not dissimilar. They may not have left the shore, but are just as much pioneers, trying to map out routes for others to follow. No-one has ever before had to meet their challenges, on the scale, or with the consequences they face. Arguably, the risks are no less significant now than they were then.  

The problem is, they have never considered their role in this light. And, as specialist in dealing with people, it is incumbent on HR to make them aware of this and – even more importantly – to play the scouts’ role and help them through it.  

The fact is that all the change we are experiencing is the unavoidable effect of the Information Revolution, which launched “The Knowledge Age.” Universally acknowledged, this can be readily identified by the increasingly common:

  • Pursuit of continuous improvement;
  • Use of the term “Learning Organisation”;
  • Recognition of employees as “knowledge workers”; and, perhaps less obviously,
  • Use of the term “human capital”.  

All these, as I suggested previously, point to the fact that management theory and practice is evolving: something you would expect following a revolution. After all, any revolution results in a change in models, systems and behaviours. Managing this evolution is what makes a manager a pioneer. To be a successful pioneer and secure the future you have to shape those changes.

The key to doing so is implicit in the term “human capital.” More than anything else, this not only acknowledges the contribution of people, but builds on the concept of employees as knowledge workers and so recognises the value they add to the organisation. It moves employees beyond being “resources” and implicitly recognises them as the assets they are so frequently described as, but never managed as!    

This gives the HR industry a golden opportunity to redress its historic failings. Recognising employees as human capital inevitably creates greater expectations. It means that you:

  • Can no longer consider them as “hired hands” but rather as a vital cog in the running of the organisation.  
  • Have to ensure they have the knowledge they need.
  • Have to enable them to use their intelligence and apply their knowledge for the ultimate good of the organisation.

This is why you need to move away from the traditional (industrial age) hierarchical model and create a more organic model that allows people to interact more on an as-needed basis and thus be more responsive and adaptive.

With its predetermined lines of communication, the hierarchical model inevitably and unavoidably slows down or prevents proper communication, slowing service and stunting development.  The hierarchical model not only fails to recognise the evolution of management, but also completely fails to recognise the constantly evolving nature of the organisation itself. Every change alters the dynamics of the organisation itself.    

This inevitably brings you back to the three basic drivers of motivation identified by people like Daniel Pink – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose – all of which are inextricably tied to the individual. All are also essential for an organisation to become more organic, simply because the focus on the people.  Thus, to be an effective pioneer you have to find a way to bring these into play and make your business more organic.

All this should be bread and butter to the HR profession. So, how well you are doing? Only you can answer that question. I would, however, wager that you are not doing as well as you would like. If that is the case, then I can offer you some relief. My ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model offers you an ideal way to shape your environment so your managers can accelerate their progress, steal a march on the competition and ensure their success as pioneers. 

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  • Hello Bay, really enjoyed the article. Such good points as Human Capital, Corporate and organic orgnaisations. Every person is part of the organisationa and showd have a voice in it, taking into consideration the culture, mission, even the structure of the organisation. Helped me re-focus my attention on HR role. 

    • Hi Mafalda

      I am glad you found it helpful. Thank you for the feedback.

  • A great article. I agree with this and like the fact it focuses on people and their opinion. Such a basic methodology that can make a massive difference. The people in your organisation are the future. With their input, goals will be implemented acted upon. Results will include engaged employees, better retention and individuals will take ownership of performance and actions.
    • Hi Tina

      Thank you for your encouragement. Absolutely! Our current model is broken and we need to develop a new one, and - for it work - I believe it has to incorporate these principles.

      Kind regards


  • Hi Bay,

    I like this. I have been talking with my HRP (Level 3) participants about this and how they need to see past the policy and procedure element of HR and look more at the corporate environment, culture, structure, management style etc as areas to really make a difference. I will direct them to have a read of this and comment with their thoughts.



    • Hi Howard

      Thanks for the positive response. I look forward to hearing more about what they think.

      Kind regards


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